The Highlight of My Eurotrip Was The Night I Got Spiked
It was 9:30pm and happy hour had well and truly begun on Mlini – the loud and jovial boat I was allocated on my Sail Croatia tour. Like a stale rickety staircase shrieks at two in the morning, Mlini creaked and clacked. It bobbed atop the salty waters, like an old, well-loved rubber duck in a bath tub.
By our fourth night of the sail, we had island-hopped our way to the lovely Croatian city of Dubrovnik.
Proudly skirting the Adriatic Sea and teeming with rich history dating back to the 16th century, Dubrovnik cradles many secrets in its formidable walls. Each alleyway creeps seamlessly into an undiscovered territory, lined with slippery limestone pavers polished back to a glossy and slick finish as a result of thousands of years and millions of feet. The terracotta rooftops of the Old Town nestle themselves in the protective embrace of the steep mountainside, as though they were planted there like sprouting trees.
I sat pensively on the deck as the sun lay to sleep on the water. Sipping on my Sex on The Beach cocktail, I watched in awe as the colours of the city spilled onto the rippling surface. I also observed our on-board bartender and adored satirical comedian, Dino, tip the vodka bottle upside down and into my jug before proceeding to walk away, tending to whatever else it was before coming back to retrieve the glugging bottle a few too many moments later. Needless to say, I certainly was not complaining.
While most of the guys perched themselves on the deck gripping a fat pint of beer, I glanced over at Mat and Christian, both in their early twenties with unkempt brown locks and booming laughter, equally embracing their femininity and enjoying their free pour lip-smacking cocktails. They sat against a background of chaos – the boat was loud, people were drunk and the table was covered in a sticky sheen from dried alcohol.
I began questioning whether to be impressed or apprehensive at the number of beverages being consumed like clockwork. My wandering thoughts were reminding me of my position as a solo (and drunk) female traveller. Here I was, on a boat that was 50 per cent men, and by myself. It was my first time in Europe, and first time braving the solo travel trend everyone raves about. I had made friends, but a lot can change in one night with a lot of alcohol.
Happy hour soon came to an end, and after trying our luck at the city’s most expensive club, Mat received bellows of praise as he suggested we make our way to Dubrovnik’s cheapest club further down the street. I was drowning in artificial fluorescent lighting as the thick scent of sweat, alcohol and smoke stuck like glue to the back of my throat, but the appeal of cheap drinks was all too alluring.
One drink bucket later, and we had retreated with all our might to the dance floor. My last vivid memory is of Mat taking the straws from people’s drinks and using them as drum sticks on our heads.
I was found shortly after at the bus stop outside of the club, unconscious and by myself.
The rest of the night is only pieced together by the broken fragments of others. The morning after, I sat with a blaring headache and a knot twisting itself in the pit of my stomach as I sat and listened to what had happened to me.
“Mat and I found you alone at the bus stop,” Christian uttered.
“We had no idea how you got there, or why you were there in the first place.”
A shadow of gloom crept into the eyes and slumped shoulders of those crowded around me.
Mat soon after chimed in. “We were both blind drunk, but as soon as we saw you, we were instantly sober. I had you on my back and Christian was holding you so you didn’t fall off. We had to get you home.”
After they found me, they put me into a taxi where I was taken back to the port. As word spread of what had happened, everyone on the boat came flocking to where I was laid on the ground. Dino cradled my head in his lap like a piece of fragile glass.
He called the ambulance in sheer terror – I was still completely unresponsive and my eyes were rolling into the back of my head. He then rolled me onto my side as I began to vomit, and soon after told the ambulance I was beginning to come to it.
“I’m sorry,” blurted my intuition, my body still incapable of movement. “I didn’t do this, I promise.”
“I know you didn’t, and whoever did is an absolute monster,” Dino spat.
“Let me take her to her room and help her get changed,” one of the girls insisted.
And she did just that, before Dino sat with me until I fell asleep – until I felt safe.
I later discovered Dino had taken it upon himself to find the scumbag of a culprit – a bartender from the club – and proceeded to get him fired. Though I declined to take the matter further when asked, overwhelmingly appreciative and thankful for the outcome, Dino was not satisfied. He had no other agenda other than to right the wrongdoing that was inflicted on me, and though I don’t know exactly how he found out, it will always warm my heart that he did.
I remember when I first stepped foot aboard the boat, solo and riddled with anxiety, desperately convincing myself I would find people whom I could call my close friends, while doing my best to evade douchey guys with grim motives. I gave gracious smiles and introduced myself to everyone on board. I tugged at my thoughts, reminding myself to live in the moment as unrelenting memories of home and friends and comfort bleakly washed over me.
And as I sat, listening back to the tale of a night with endless potentially horrifying outcomes, I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude I’ve never felt before for these people I had known for the lesser part of four days.
As for the rest of the trip, I was not only swarmed with a herd of protective escorts, but surrounded by a bunch of fucking legends that had successfully restored my faith in humanity and asked for nothing in return.
“Of course. As long as you’re okay,” is all they would say with a small, glowing smile. And I was.
Cover by Katherine McCormack